This has been the most enjoyable paper I’ve worked on, and I’m so excited it’s now online! It’s a systematic review of observations published in peer-reviewed literature of bee and syrphid fly species collecting pollen from wind-pollinated plants. I also cite some blog posts (see my previous post on this relationship) and discuss the importance of natural history.
The paper’s had a long development process (I presented some preliminary results at the Ecological Society of Australia conference last year) and a thorough peer review (3 revisions, 9 lots of comments and I think at least 6 individual reviewers) – thank you to Insect Conservation & Diversity and my wonderful reviewers for being so patient and helpful!
My review covered 1364 plant genera in 50 families. I looked at bee and syrphid fly species, because these are the most common pollinators in most environments globally. So this is not an ‘end of the road’ list; it’s a means to highlight how little we know about the ecology and life history of most insect pollinator species. Pollination systems of so many plant species are still undescribed, and life histories of so many insect pollinator species are still unknown…lots more basic natural history research is needed!
Most observant naturalists, beekeepers and pollination ecologists will agree that bees and other insect pollinators collect pollen from wind-pollinated plants. But plant-pollinator interactions are still commonly seen as a mutualism, where both plant and pollinator must benefit from the interaction. This simplified view of the complexity involved in plant-pollinator interactions has had some knock-on effects for research.
In crop pollination research, the main focus is on pollen-limited crops that need animal pollinators to produce yields. In plant-pollinator network studies in natural ecosystems, the data is generally collected in a short timeframe over spring-summer (many wind-pollinated plants flower much earlier, especially in temperate regions) and the studies mostly focus on flowering plants that are rarely wind-pollinated. From a community ecology perspective, a number of studies have considered how co-flowering insect-pollinated plants influence each other’s reproductive success. But I couldn’t find any studies that had considered how wind-pollinated plants influence the structure of plant-pollinator communities (but see this cool paper in Ecological Entomology that was just published a few days ago!). And who knows if wind-pollinated plants benefit from visitation by insect pollinators, because how many studies have actually measured this?
I hope you enjoy reading it! If you can’t access the journal online, email me for a copy.
© Manu Saunders 2017